Credit unions in Ohio decline with increased mergers PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Associated Press   
Sunday, 28 July 2013 04:56

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Membership and assets of credit unions in Ohio have been growing despite a continuing decline in their numbers, as more of the alternative banking institutions merge in the state and across the country.

The number of credit unions in the state has dropped 12.5 percent over the past five years to 356, the Akron Beacon Journal (http://bit.ly/1bt1if3) reports.

Industry experts say the decrease mirrors a nationwide decline as consolidation becomes widespread in the industry. Nationwide, the number of active credit unions peaked at 12,977 in 1970, with fewer than 4,300 remaining as of last year.

But those in the industry say that remaining credit unions are becoming stronger.

Membership rose from 2.6 million to 2.7 million and assets climbed from $19.3 billion to $24.4 billion over the same five-year period.

"In order for credit unions to survive and offer a value, they are merging with other credit unions," said Rose Bartolomucci, president of Towpath Credit Union in the Akron suburb of Fairlawn. Towpath merged with TeleCommunity Credit Union in 2011. "They aren't necessarily going away."

Bartolomucci predicts the trend will continue partly due to increased state and federal regulatory pressure, and there could be as few as 150 credit unions in the state in another five years.

Some smaller credit unions and those relying on specific businesses for members have closed or merged with others if they haven't kept up with technology and stayed on top or regulations, said Michael Wettrich, deputy superintendent for the state Department of Commerce Division of Financial Institutions. Wettrich, who oversees credit unions for the department, said that failure to attract new members also has led to the decline in numbers of individual credit unions.

But Wettrich estimates that 90 percent of the credit unions that are disappearing are joining with others.

Nationwide, the number of active credit unions peaked at 12,977 in 1970, with fewer than 4,300 remaining as of last year.

"In 99 percent of the cases where a merger occurs, it's usually to the benefit of the member, especially those seeking more technology in their everyday banking needs," said Patrick Harris, a spokesman with the Ohio Credit Union League, a trade group in Columbus.

He and others say that the industry consolidation has provide more credit union members with access to ATMs, online banking, business loans and even phone apps.

Jessica Ellis of Fairlawn prefers to use a credit union because she says they are smaller and easier to work with than many larger banks.

"Some of the banks, because they're so big, they don't really think of the little people, I guess," she said.

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Information from: Akron Beacon Journal, http://www.ohio.com


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